Hoops Practice Update: 1/6

Arkansas was the only road team to win its SEC opener, but Nolan Richardson wasn't in a mood to celebrate. He was trying to figure out how to stop Mississippi State's Mario Austin on Tuesday night.

Arkansas' 83-77 victory over Auburn was a nice way to start the SEC season, but Nolan Richardson doesn't have any illusions about what lays ahead of the Razorbacks. He knows there is more hard work just ahead.

"I saw the first half of the Mississippi State game with Kentucky, and I then I started watching a little tape of the second half," Richardson said after the Hogs' practice Sunday. "I know MSU is big and Austin is really good. He can dominate the paint. And, we aren't very big.

"Kentucky had the big lead, but sometimes you quit playing the way you played to get the lead, and then the team behind just catches fire. They play hard because they were behind. I know that Austin just took over the game, and then hit his first 3-pointer to put it into overtime."

Richardson knows the Hogs will have to rely on their quickness against the Bulldogs.

"You ask me who we put on Austin, and I tell you that it won't matter," Richardson said. "We can't stop him with one man. We will have to scramble and put two or three on him when he catches the ball. We will have to swarm him. That's the way we have to play. We'll have to speed up the game because we can't match them in a halfcourt game. We know that. Kentucky found that out and they are one of the top teams in the country."

Richardson is glad he's found another big man to utilize. Carl Baker, who had scored only four points all season, ripped Auburn with 17 points. Richardson said he was as surprised as anyone at Baker's explosion.

"How do you scout us?" Richardson said. "Who ever made out the scouting report yesterday for us ... I bet it didn't have anything about Carl other than that he's not going to shoot. That's what makes us tough.

"I do know that he was really struggling, even in  practice. He wasn't even looking at the basket. Even before he hurt his ankle, he was struggling. Now, when we first started practice back in October, he was playing as well as anyone. He's been the missing piece of the puzzle. It's good to have Carl back. After he hit that first shot, he was on. He was fluid and he caught it and ripped it every time. It looked so good to me.

"Carl has had some trouble. He hasn't talked about it, but he did mention to me earlier that he was having trouble with something at home. He's a worrisome guy anyway. Things bother him. Then, to go with that, he hurt his ankle. Those high ankle sprains are tough to overcome."

Trainer Dave England said Baker is still far from being fully recovered from the ankle sprain that decked him the day before the Tulsa game.

"It may not be 100 percent until the end of the season," England said. "I'd say he's about 90 percent now."

Richardson said that Baker will help against MSU because of his defensive ability at handling a post man.

"He's one of our forwards who can double in the post," Richardson said. "That's what you loved about Carl, is his versatility. He helps our press. Dionisio Gomez is good on defense in our fullcourt pressure, but Carl is better."

Richardson got another look at football tryout Nathan Ball, and announced that Ball would suit up for the MSU game. However, he turned down another football tryout Sunday when tight end Jason Peters, a 6-5 by 310-pounder, met with Richardson on the court after practice.

"He asked if (Houston Nutt) had called me about him," Richardson said. "I said, 'Jason, you need to be with the football team, working out with them.' I don't need another one. I guess everyone thinks we must be horrible, for all these guys wanting to help us. Nathan had worked with our team in the summer pickup games. He knows what we are going. But, we don't need any more right now."

Richardson said that he'd talk to Houston Nutt about Peters playing basketball, but didn't see it happening. Richardson said he didn't expect to hear from Matt Jones about playing basketball either.

"Matt has a chance to make a lot of money playing football someday," Richardson said. "He might help us (in basketball). I don't know. But, if he asks me, I'd tell him to work on football. And, I'd tell him that next year, too. He's got a great amount of ability. I've seen him play football. He needs to be doing that."



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